Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has accused nongovernmental organizations of setting forest fires a day after the government monitoring agency said the country has seen a record number of fires this year.
Brazil's National Institute for Space Research, which monitors deforestation and wildfires, said more than 74,000 fires have been detected so far this year burning in the Amazon rainforest, an 84% increase from the same period last year.
"Maybe - I am not affirming it - these (NGOs) are carrying out some criminal actions to draw attention against me, against the government of Brazil," Bolsonaro told reporters. When asked if he had evidence, he said he had "no written plan," adding "that's not how it's done."
Earlier this month, the head of the NISR was fired after he opposed the president's claim that the agency had manipulated deforestation data to make the administration look bad.
"This is a sick statement, a pitiful statement," said Marcio Astrini, Greenpeace Brazil's public policy coordinator. "Increased deforestation and burning are the result of his anti-environmental policy."
Conservationists have blamed Bolsonaro for the plight of the Amazon, saying he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land.
"It is very difficult to have natural fires in the Amazon; it happens but the majority come from the hand of humans," said Paulo Moutinho, co-founder of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute.
He said the fires, usually set by farmers and loggers, can easily get out of hand during the dry season.